Review: ‘Songs of the Sea’ — and More Delights Coming

By Wilma Allen

Make no mistake: creativity, talent, and cooperation are alive and well on Amelia Island. Last weekend’s “Songs of the Sea” was a perfect example.

This was a rollicking Celtic songfest produced by Amelia Island Opera and performed in the Museum of History’s former Nassau County jail. It featured Meredith Beck and Janice Landry of the Galway Girls, and their spouses, John Dutton and Martin Landry, all sought-after performers from the Philly/New York area. They were joined by Jonathan Bryant, History Professor Emeritus at Georgia Southern University; a wise-cracking Irishman (played by John Drew, our tax collector); and a sold-out audience who laughed, clapped, and sang along.

The Galway Girls’ accompanied their lyrical sea shanties and Irish folk tunes with guitar, flute, drums and more. Bryant’s narration between numbers provided a perfect historical context in recognition of the area’s nautical history and current bicentennials.

John Drew wore several hats – a blue flat cap as Thomas O’Hagan, Amelia Island Lighthouse keeper, and the tricorn of a swashbuckling pirate. His “Arrrgh’s,” and heartfelt opening strains of the ballad, “Molly Malone,” earned special applause, as did John Landry’s jaunty performance of “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” the tongue-twisting favorite from Gilbert and Sullivan’s, “Pirates of Penzance.” All in all, the music, banter, and history brought everyone back to the time of wooden ships, sails and buccaneers.

“Songs of the Sea” was the brainchild of Amelia Islander Robyn Lamp, soprano and cofounder of Amelia Island Opera (AIO), which is rapidly building a fanbase here. Her idea was to recognize Nassau County’s and Fernandina’s 200th birthdays with sea shanties to celebrate our rich maritime history. There was no opera in this performance, just great singing surrounded by local history. Officials of Amelia Island Museum of History were on board from the beginning, said Phyllis Davis, Executive Director, who dispensed beverages before the performance. Museum Curator, Jarrett Hill, was a great help in the planning process.

Collaborations like this are becoming more and more common here. They take advantage of the enormous and diverse talents on Amelia Island, and the wonderful settings for performances. This coming Friday, Amelia Island Singers and Amelia Island Opera perform together in “Music of the Stage: From Opera to Broadway,” an extravagant production with over 100 singers and musicians. It will be held in the large Rectory of First Baptist Church, and tickets have already sold out.

On April 27 and 28, Amelia Island Opera is back for the final installment of its fourth annual concert series with Story & Song Center for the Arts. AIO co-founders and special guests will perform a preview of enchanting selections from operas, musicals, and concerts you may expect next season.

Another prime example of collaboration in action is the upcoming Wild Amelia Nature Festival, now in its 15th year. Dozens of organizations are involved to make it a family-friendly celebration of our diverse ecosystem and the great outdoors. It starts Friday, May 10, with a week of ecotours, river cruises, story times for kids, beach and dunes cleanups, garden tours and more. It culminates Saturday, May 18 with a larger than ever Eco-Expo to be held for the first time at Main Beach.

And on May 10 and 11, the Amelia Island Dance Festival presents a favorite dance troupe, Atlanta Dance Connection, at Amelia Community Theatre. While visiting here from Atlanta, the dancers will tour the island with guides Ron and Avis Miller of Coast One Tours. This tour is in preparation for an original dance production about American Beach that is now in development. It will debut at the sixth annual AI Dance Festival to be held in September, with creative collaborators to be announced.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Ruthellen Mulberg
Active Member
Ruthellen Mulberg(@rmulberg)
1 month ago

I love your reviews and notices about cultural events in the area.
But I would be remiss if I did not report an event that went “under your radar”.
Also, as part of the festivities surrounding Fernandina’s bicentennial, The Senior Theatre Project at Amelia Musical Playhouse(AMP),under the able direction of Jeff Goldberg, is presenting a review entitled “Fernandina by the Sea” on Wednesday, April 24th at 2:30pm! (Full disclosure: yours truly is a member of the cast). Tickets are $10 each and can be reserved by calling 904-277-3455 Or by email:  
[email protected]

1 month ago

Thank you, Ruthellen. One of these days I’ll write about the terrific theatre on the island.